Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, has joined with 122 other MPs in calling for planned increases in Universal Credit roll-out – which will see a roll-out 55 new areas per month from this October – to be delayed.
In an open letter to David Gauke, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, signed by MPs from all parties, Alex and his colleagues pointed out that the system – already struggling to cope with new 5 areas per month – is not working in its current form.
The move by MPs is also backed by both Citizens Advice and Councils and Landlords’ organisations, who have expressed concerns that many recipients are falling into rental arrears and being forced to borrow money while waiting for their first Universal Credit payment.
“Even by the government’s own figures, Universal Credit is proving to be a shambles.
“Almost a quarter of claimants are waiting more than 6 weeks for their payment, with some waiting 12 weeks or longer. This is forcing people into arrears and a spiral of debt that is almost impossible to get out of, as their income under Universal Credit is too low.
“The government’s refusal to admit that Universal Credit is failing, and press ahead with this roll-out, is causing untold distress for hundreds of thousands of people. David Gauke must do the decent thing and delay next week’s planned 11-fold expansion until he can say with certainty that the system is fit for purpose”
The letter also highlighted that less than 40% of claimants register successfully with the government’s compulsory online portal, and that the lack of helpline is causing further problems for recipients.
The increased Universal Credit roll-out is set to begin from October 2017, with Stockton North set to be part of the April 2018 batch.